Image Sacred drumming of
the Qadiriya of Senegal

About the Music

Tabala Wolof is the ritual drum music of a West African Sufi order, the Qadiriya of Senegal. Led by a bass drum during nighttime worship, the Qadiriya play interlocking rhythms on tuned drums to inspire ecstatic singing.

Image Qadiriya worship,
near Dakar.

Tabala Wolof evolved in the late 1700s, when the Qadiriya arrived in Senegal. Founded in Baghdad in the 1100s, the Qadiriya is the oldest Sufi order in the world. From the order's beginning, worshipers have played drums and sung prayers to experience God's presence. In Senegal, converts from the Wolof people incorporated traditional Wolof rhythms into Qadiriya worship, to satisfy their own taste and to communicate Qadiriya messages in the Wolof language.

Digitally recorded in Senegal, Tabala Wolof: Sufi Drumming of Senegal presents the drum troupe led by seventh-generation Sufi drummer Boubacar Diagne. Boubacar descends from Mauritanian Berbers who helped introduce the Qadiriya into Senegal.

Image Seventh-generation Sufi drummer
Boubacar Diagne (in cap) poses
at home with some of his family
and with three of the drums played
by his troupe. His four-year-old
grandson (in red shirt) is already
learning to play.



"Another unexpected find: Tabala Wolof: Sufi Drumming of Senegal is the sort of recording that, not so long ago, might have languished obscurely in some ethnomusicologist's collection. Instead, this field recording of an Afro-Islamic all-night ritual in Senegal (with more danceable beats per minute than your average 12-inch single) is on the shelves. The booming, almost martial-sounding polyrhythms of Tabala Wolof's drummers (the rhythms are meant to push worshipers into trance) are living documentation of the centuries-old musical interchange between the Islamic world and West Africa. (If you want to understand more about Youssou N'Dour, check here.) Best of all, the recording is crisp and alive..."
--Daisann McLane, Rolling Stone

"69 minutes of authentic African Sufi drumming. Recorded on the outskirts of Dakar during a special midnight to dawn celebration of sprit, it is performed on [five] tuned drums. This reviewer was impressed by the diversity of tone quality which was achieved by the various methods used to strike the drums. Some vocal chanting or 'calling' is heard in various choral combinations, yet the vocal sounds are definitely a background to the ever moving variety of drum beats. The performers or rather the participants in this experience play as one unit and the clarity of the recording is superb."
--Angharad Llewellyn, Heartsong Review

Audio Samples

[Button] "Men's Chorus" MP3 Format (28 sec, 275 KB)

[Button] "Laye Laye" MP3 Format (24 sec, 239 KB)

Catalog Reference

Title: Tabala Wolof: Sufi Drumming of Senegal
Artist: Boubacar Diagne
Cat. No.: VPU-1002 (CD)

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